Category Archives: October 2017

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson. June 13, 2017. HarperTeen, 272 p. ISBN: 9780062393548.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Divided by time. Ignited by a spark.

Kansas, 2065. Adri has secured a slot as a Colonist—one of the lucky few handpicked to live on Mars. But weeks before launch, she discovers the journal of a girl who lived in her house over a hundred years ago, and is immediately drawn into the mystery surrounding her fate. While Adri knows she must focus on the mission ahead, she becomes captivated by a life that’s been lost in time…and how it might be inextricably tied to her own.

Oklahoma, 1934. Amidst the fear and uncertainty of the Dust Bowl, Catherine fantasizes about her family’s farmhand, and longs for the immortality promised by a professor at a traveling show called the Electric. But as her family’s situation becomes more dire—and the suffocating dust threatens her sister’s life—Catherine must find the courage to sacrifice everything she loves in order to save the one person she loves most.

England, 1919. In the recovery following the First World War, Lenore struggles with her grief for her brother, a fallen British soldier, and plans to sail to America in pursuit of a childhood friend. But even if she makes it that far, will her friend be the person she remembers, and the one who can bring her back to herself?

While their stories spans thousands of miles and multiple generations, Lenore, Catherine, and Adri’s fates are entwined.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Underage drinking, Smoking

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 15))
Grades 9-12. All her life, 17-year-old Adri’s been preparing to be a Mars colonist, so when she must leave behind her home in Miami, thanks to rising ocean levels, she doesn’t mourn too much, since she’s been ready to leave the whole planet behind for years. Her sense of detachment wavers, though, when she’s placed with Lily, her elderly, last living relative, in the months leading up to her one-way trip to Mars. In Lily’s ancient Kansas farmhouse, Adri finds shreds of clues about her past, including enigmatic letters and journals and, oddly, a Galápagos tortoise. Now cold, prickly Adri finds herself fixated on where she came from—particularly the stories of two women, Catherine, who lived in Lily’s house during the Dust Bowl, and Lenore, who lived in England during WWI—just as she’s about to leave it all behind for good. As Anderson beautifully weaves together Adri’s, Catherine’s, and Lenore’s stories, each of the three women come vividly to life through distinct voices and behaviors. Their stories have parallels—environmental devastation, leaving home behind, and finding a new one—but they’re all deployed with determined subtlety, and the resolutions, while never tidy, are tantalizingly satisfying. With quietly evocative writing, compellingly drawn characters, and captivating secrets to unearth, this thought-provoking, lyrical novel explores the importance of pinning down the past before launching into the mystery of the future.

Kirkus Reviews starred (April 1, 2017)
In the year 2065, 16-year-old Adri Ortiz is one of the hardworking, talented few chosen to colonize Mars. Adri’s an orphan with ties to no one, but the Latina teen understands the importance of interpersonal cooperation, so she doesn’t complain when the head of the Mars program sends her to live with a long-forgotten cousin near the space center in Wichita for the months leading up to the launch. Lily, the cousin, is 107, passing into dementia, and more eager to know Adri than Adri is to know her. But Adri is intrigued by a postcard she finds in the farmhouse, written in 1920 and mentioning the Galápagos tortoise who still lives on the farm (and is herself named Galápagos). The story shifts to diary-keeper Catherine, a hardscrabble white teen living on the same farm in 1934, at the height of the Dust Bowl. Catherine’s little sister Beezie is dying from dust pneumonia, and their mother, a widow, seems locked into helplessness. Again the story shifts—now it’s England, 1919, and white Leonore is mourning both her brother’s loss in the Great War and the friend who left for America years before, to whom she writes. Galápagos ties the stories together as all three young women fight for self-determination, love, their futures, and the realization that you can never move forward freely until you have something important to leave behind. Deft, succinct, and ringing with emotion without ever dipping into sentimentality, Anderson’s novel is both intriguing and deeply satisfying. (Science/historical fiction. 12-adult)

About the Author

Jodi Lynn Anderson is the New York Times bestselling author of PeachesTiger Lily, and the popular May Bird trilogy. She lives in Asheville, N.C., with her husband, her son, and an endless parade of stray pets.

Her website is www.jodilynnanderson.net

Around the Web

Midnight at the Electric on Amazon

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Midnight at the Electric on JLG

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Trashing the Planet by Stuart Kallen

Trashing the Planet: Examining Our Global Garbage Glut by Stuart Kallen. August 1, 2017. Twenty-First Century Books, 104 p. ISBN: 9781512413144.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1200.

On a global scale, humans create around 2.6 trillion pounds of waste every year. None of this trash is harmless—landfills and dumps leak toxic chemicals into soil and groundwater, while incinerators release toxic gases and particles into the air. What can we do to keep garbage from swallowing up Earth? Reducing, reusing, recycling, and upcycling are some of the answers. Learn more about the work of the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Ocean Cleanup Array, the zero waste movement, and the many other government, business, research, and youth efforts working to solve our planet’s garbage crisis.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 8-12. It is easy to forget about the refuse that people discard once it’s in the garbage can, but this book seeks to draw the attention of young readers to an ever-growing problem: the tremendous amount of trash polluting the earth. This puts modern ecological issues in historical context, explaining the impact of the Industrial Revolution on human consumption and the genesis of the environmental movement. Color photographs of some of the most polluted areas drive home the severity of the global garbage problem, while charts, maps, and diagrams support understanding of fundamental STEM concepts. Additionally, the topic lends itself to discussions of global politics and international relations, as well as the economic differences between underdeveloped and developed nations. Soundly researched and carefully sourced, the text speaks to the complexity of the issue, while offering suggestions for action in readers’ own backyards. Kallen hits the right balance of informative, cautionary, and alarmist, helping young readers grasp the urgency of the global garbage issue and be inspired to act on it.

Kirkus Reviews (May 1, 2017)
A taut overview of humans’ environmentally shameful impact on the face of the Earth—plus its subsurface and supersurface.From the “first flush”—that is, when Los Angeles experiences its first cleansing (read: deeply polluting) rain in autumn—to the “twenty-three thousand pieces of orbital debris larger than 4 inches (10 cm) across” currently being tracked by NASA, Kallen describes in aching detail the abuse we humans have heaped upon our nest. Scattered with sharp, supporting photographs, the text is a litany of malfeasance: landfill issues, incineration issues, chemicals and plastics degrading everything they touch except themselves, planned obsolescence, the petrochemical fiasco, the two-edged sword of recycling—stores offer free e-waste recycling, for instance, the better to lure in consumers to purchase new products. He dots the narrative with boxed items of especial infamy, such as “Black Monday,” the day in 1943 when downtown Los Angeles smog became a blackout. The one misstep in Kallen’s otherwise strong treatment of the topic is that he is, frankly, a downer. The tone is somber, and while there are examples of people taking positive steps, there aren’t enough to counter the gathering darkness. We have met the enemy and it is us. But unless humans go extinct and nature goes her healing ways alone, we are the solution, a message grimly driven home. (Nonfiction. 10-16)

About the Author

Stuart A. Kallen has written more than 350 nonfiction books for children and young adults. His books have covered a wide arc of human history, culture, and science.

Kallen is also an accomplished singer-songwriter and guitarist in San Diego, California.

 Around the Web

Trashing the Planet on Amazon

Trashing the Planet  on Goodreads

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Trashing the Planet  Publisher Page

Auma’s Long Run by Eucabeth Odhiambo

Auma’s Long Run by Ecuabeth Odhiambo. September 1, 2017. Carolrhoda Books, 304 p. ISBN: 9781512427844.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.8; Lexile: 740.

Auma loves to run. In her small Kenyan village, she’s a track star with big dreams. A track scholarship could allow her to attend high school and maybe even become a doctor. But a strange new sickness called AIDS is ravaging the village, and when her father becomes ill, Auma’s family needs her help at home. Soon more people are getting sick even dying and no one knows why. Now Auma faces a difficult choice. Should she stay to support her struggling family or leave to pursue her own future? Auma knows her family is depending on her, but leaving might be the only way to find the answers to questions about this new disease.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Corporal punishment, Negative attitudes toward people with HIV/AIDS, Frank discussion of STIs, Attempted sexual assault

 

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 6-8. In her impressive debut, Odhiambo throws readers into a bustling nineties Kenyan village with this in-depth look at family grief. Auma is 13 and in year seven at her primary school. She loves running, has dreams of leaving Koromo to go to high school on a track scholarship, and wants to be a doctor. But when her baba (father), looking thinner, returns early from his job in Nairobi, and more people in her village start dying, Auma starts questioning everything she knows. Then her father dies, and Auma must decide whether to continue her schooling or work to feed her family. By the end of the novel, Auma is 15, but she’s grappling with decisions that would overwhelm most adults. In this gut-wrenching look at the AIDS epidemic in Kenya in the nineties, Odhiambo flawlessly weaves Kenyan tradition and culture with appropriate preteen problems (discussing crushes, competing in track meets). A detailed fictionalized portrayal of the effects of a very real disease, this novel would be an excellent asset to classrooms everywhere.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2017)
In Odhiambo’s debut novel, a young girl faces a difficult decision when AIDS hits her Kenyan village. Born “facedown,” 13-year-old Auma knows she’s destined for great things. As one of the fastest runners in school, track is her ticket to getting a scholarship to continue her education. But in her village of Koromo, people are dying at an alarming rate from a disease called AIDS, and few people really know why. Auma’s dream is to become a doctor and help those afflicted. When first her father becomes ill and then her mother soon after, Auma is left shouldering the responsibility of caring for her family. Grades and running begin to take a back seat to feeding her family, and Auma must find the strength to follow her dreams, no matter how impossible they seem. In Auma, Odhiambo draws from her own experiences of growing up in Kenya during the beginning of the AIDS crisis to present a strong, intelligent protagonist who questions and refuses to give in to what is normally accepted. Auma treats readers to beautiful descriptions of the world around her but also gives them a candid look at the fear and superstition surrounding AIDS in its early days in Kenya as well as the grief of loss. All of the characters are black. Honestly told, Auma’s tale humanizes and contextualizes the AIDS experience in Kenya without sensationalizing it. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Eucabeth Odhiambo is a professor of teacher education at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.  As a classroom teacher she has taught all grades between kindergarten and middle school.

Auma’s Long Run is her first novel.

Around the Web

Auma’s Long Run on Amazon

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Girls Who Code by Reshma Saujani

Girls Who Code by Reshma Saujani. August 22, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 176 p. ISBN: 9780425287538.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.7; Lexile: 990.

Part how-to, part girl-empowerment, and all fun, from the leader of the movement championed by Sheryl Sandberg, Malala Yousafzai, and John Legend.

Since 2012, the organization Girls Who Code has taught computing skills to and inspired over 40,000 girls across America. Now its founder, Reshma Saujani, wants to inspire you to be a girl who codes! Bursting with dynamic artwork, down-to-earth explanations of coding principles, and real-life stories of girls and women working at places like Pixar and NASA, this graphically animated book shows what a huge role computer science plays in our lives and how much fun it can be. No matter your interest–sports, the arts, baking, student government, social justice–coding can help you do what you love and make your dreams come true. Whether you’re a girl who’s never coded before, a girl who codes, or a parent raising one, this entertaining book, printed in bold two-color and featuring art on every page, will have you itching to create your own apps, games, and robots to make the world a better place.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Online))
Grades 6-10. Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code (a national nonprofit organization that educates young women with computing skills), is on a mission to close the gender gap in technology. With the help of multicultural girls, represented in appealing tween- and teen-friendly cartoon images, the author introduces the concept of coding, some of its terminology, and its problem-solving process. Using a conversational tone and easy-to-understand examples (such as comparing coding to stringing different patterns of beads), she also explains numerous real-world applications of coding, including digital art, websites, mobile apps, animation, video games, and robots. The text does not teach specific coding skills or languages (although they are represented graphically), but readers who are studying these on their own will benefit from chapters on design, debugging, and other related topics. Particularly eye-opening are interviews with current female coders in high-tech fields and with the featured multicultural girls, all of whom describe projects on which they’ve worked. Above all, this book makes coding less intimidating and more inspiring to today’s young women.

Kirkus Reviews (May 15, 2017)
A guide to get girls into coding, written by Saujani, the founder of the Girls Who Code organization, with Hutt’s assistance. Rather than serving as a manual for a specific coding language, this book has two focuses: encouraging girls that coding is something they can do and guiding them to entry points that will make programming relevant to their specific interests. Internalized societal messages about girls’ STEM abilities and the pressure on girls to be perfect are addressed head-on through spotlights on women in programing history and interviews with impressive women working in programming (such as Danielle Feinberg of Pixar, who tells how a bug in her code created an amazing new effect). After obligatory computer history, the chapters are organized first with programming logic and theory that will serve regardless of the programming language used (including creative prompts to nurture new ideas and give young programmers confidence), and then into the fun to be had programming applications—apps, games, digital art, robots, etc. These segments feature interviews with real Girls Who Code teams speaking of how they created successful projects, and a multicultural cartoon cast appears in comic strips working on specific projects. Having demonstrated what projects each programming language is for, the resources at the end direct girls to code tutorials so they can start their own projects. Final art not seen. An encouraging supplementary resource for young coders. (glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 9-16)

About the Author

Reshma Saujani is the former NYC Deputy Public Advocate and the founder of Girls Who Code, a nonprofit that prepares underserved girls for careers in science and technology. She ran for U.S. Congress in New York’s 14th District as a Democrat in 2010.

Her website is www.reshmasaujani.com.

Teacher Resources

The Girls Who Code Organization homepage

Around the Web

Girls Who Code on Amazon

Girls Who Code on Goodreads

Girls Who Code on JLG

Girls Who Code Publisher Page

42 Is Not Just a Number by Doreen Rappaport

42 Is Not Just a Number by Doreen Rappaport. September 5, 2017. Candlewick Press, 128 p. ISBN: 9780763676247.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.9.

An eye-opening look at the life and legacy of Jackie Robinson, the man who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball and became an American hero.

Baseball, basketball, football — no matter the game, Jackie Robinson excelled. His talents would have easily landed another man a career in pro sports, but such opportunities were closed to athletes like Jackie for one reason: his skin was the wrong color. Settling for playing baseball in the Negro Leagues, Jackie chafed at the inability to prove himself where it mattered most: the major leagues. Then in 1946, Branch Rickey, manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, recruited Jackie Robinson. Jackie faced cruel and sometimes violent hatred and discrimination, but he proved himself again and again, exhibiting courage, determination, restraint, and a phenomenal ability to play the game. In this compelling biography, award-winning author Doreen Rappaport chronicles the extraordinary life of Jackie Robinson and how his achievements won over — and changed — a segregated nation.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Racism and racist language

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 1))
Grades 5-7. Early on, young Jackie Robinson was taught to fight back when faced with racial slurs and prejudice, and he did, first as one of the few black kids in his neighborhood and later as one of the few black officers on his army base. But those injustices and the indignities he endured while playing for Negro league baseball were dwarfed by the hostility shown by many white players and fans when he broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. While children’s books on Jackie Robinson are plentiful, this well-researched, concise biography clearly shows the extraordinary burdens he carried and recognizes his significance as an agent of change within American society. A Dodgers fan as a child during the Robinson years, Rappaport offers an engaging account of the man’s life and presents enough background information about American racism during the 1930s and 1940s to help young readers understand the depth of his courage and the magnitude of his achievement as “a one-person civil rights movement.”

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2017)
A tribute to a man who spoke out forthrightly against racial injustice—until, on a larger stage, he let his deeds do the talking.Beginning with a childhood exchange with a neighbor (she hurls the N-word at him thrice; he responds with “cracker”), Rappaport focuses on her subject’s refusal to stay silent in the face of prejudicial treatment in youth and during his military career. This has the effect of underscoring the strength of character he displayed in controlling his reactions to the vicious provocations of fans and fellow players once he broke professional baseball’s color line, setting readers up for a nicely contextualized understanding of his career. Unfortunately, she ends her account with the 1947 World Series and in a cursory summation barely mentions the rest of Robinson’s achievements in baseball and after. This, along with the lack of photos or even a stat box in the backmatter, gives the profile a sketchy feel next to Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America, by his daughter, Sharon Robinson (2004)—a title that is included in the perfunctory list of suggested further reading—or any of the several more complete, better packaged appreciations of his life, times, and legacy available. A pinch hitter, at best, behind a strong lineup of competitors. (timeline, endnotes, index) (Biography. 10-13)

About the Author

Doreen Rappaport is the author of more than fifty books for children, including Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust; Lady Liberty: A Biography, illustrated by Matt Tavares; and Martin’s Big Words, illustrated by Bryan Collier. Doreen Rappaport lives in upstate New York.

Her website is dorreenrappaport.com

Teacher Resources

42 Is Not just a Number Discussion Guide

Around the Web

42 Is Not just a Number on Amazon

42 Is Not just a Number on Goodreads

42 Is Not just a Number on JLG

42 Is Not just a Number Publisher Page

The Exact Location of Home by Kate Messner

The Exact Location of Home by Kate Messner. September 12, 2017. Bloomsbury USA, 256 p. ISBN: 9781681195483.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.1.

Kirby “Zig” Zigonski lives for the world of simple circuits, light bulbs, buzzers, and motors. Electronics are, after all, much more predictable than most people–especially his father, who he hasn’t seen in over a year. When his dad’s latest visit is canceled with no explanation and his mom seems to be hiding something, Zig turns to his best friend Gianna and a new gizmo–a garage sale GPS unit–for help. Convinced that his dad is leaving clues around town to explain his absence, Zig sets out to find him. Following one clue after another, logging mile after mile, Zig soon discovers that people aren’t always what they seem . . . and sometimes, there’s more than one set of coordinates for home.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Allusions to domestic abuse

 

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 4-7. Learning that Dad has (once again) canceled his plans to visit isn’t exactly a surprise to 13-year-old Zig. But after a year without seeing his father, it’s a major disappointment. Zig spends his free time geocaching with friends. Soon, with little money for food and none for rent, he and his mother move into a homeless shelter. He avoids telling even his best friend, Gianna, about their situation. When his teacher schedules a class visit to the shelter, Zig dreads discovery, but more painful is his mother’s eventual revelation that his father is in prison. Messner creates a sympathetic character in Zig, whose narration reflects his believable unwillingness to take his father off a pedestal throughout most of the novel. Within the story, Messner gently overturns some stereotypes about homeless shelters and their residents. The narrative flows well and sweeps readers along, though the conclusion ties up loose ends too quickly and neatly. Still, readers hoping for a happy ending will not be disappointed. A companion book to The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z (2009).

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2017)
Following the precise coordinates of geocaching doesn’t yield the treasure Kirby Zagonski Jr. seeks: his missing father. Geeky eighth-grader Kirby can’t understand why his mother won’t call his dad after their generous landlady dies and they’re evicted for nonpayment of rent. Though his parents have been divorced for several years and his father, a wealthy developer, has been unreliable, Kirby is sure he could help. Instead he and his mother move to the Community Hospitality Center, a place “for the poor. The unfortunate. The homeless.” Suddenly A-student Kirby doesn’t have a quiet place to do his schoolwork or even a working pencil. They share a “family room” with a mother and young son fleeing abuse. Trying to hide this from his best friends, Gianna and Ruby, is a struggle, especially as they spend after-school hours together. The girls help him look for the geocaches visited by “Senior Searcher,” a geocacher Kirby is sure is his father. There are ordinary eighth-grade complications in this contemporary friendship tale, too; Gianna just might be a girlfriend, and there’s a dance coming up. Kirby’s first-person voice is authentic, his friends believable, and the adults both sometimes helpful and sometimes unthinkingly cruel. The setting is the largely white state of Vermont, but the circumstances could be anywhere. Middle school worries and social issues skillfully woven into a moving, hopeful, STEM-related tale. (Fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Kate Messner is a former middle-school English teacher and the author of E. B. White Read Aloud Award winner The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. and its companion, The Exact Location of HomeSugar and IceEye of the StormWake Up MissingAll the AnswersThe Seventh WishCapture the FlagHide and Seek; the Marty McGuire chapter book series; the Ranger in Time chapter book series; and several picture books. She lives on Lake Champlain with her husband and two kids. When she’s not reading or writing, she loves hiking, kayaking, biking, and watching thunderstorms over the lake.

Her website is www.katemessner.com

Around the Web

The Exact Location of Home on Amazon

The Exact Location of Home on Goodreads

The Exact Location of Home on JLG

The Exact Location of Home Publisher Page

The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes

The Arsonist by Stephanie Oaks. August 22, 2017. Dial Books, 493 p. ISBN: 9780803740716.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 770.

It starts with a fire. A diary. A murder.

Molly Mavity is not a normal teenage girl. For one thing, she doesn’t believe that her mother killed herself three years ago. And since her father is about to be executed for his crimes, Molly is convinced that her mother will return to her soon. Finally, the hole in her heart will stop hurting.

Pepper Al-Yusef is not your average teenage boy. A Kuwaiti immigrant with serious girl problems and the most embarrassing seizure dog in existence, he has to write a series of essays over the summer…or fail out of school.

And Ava Dreyman—the brave and beautiful East German resistance fighter whose murder at seventeen led to the destruction of the Berlin Wall—is unlike anyone you’ve met before.

When Molly and Pepper are tasked with finding Ava’s murderer, they realize there’s more to her life—and death—than meets the eye. Someone is lying to them. And someone out there is guiding them along, desperate for answers.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Discussion of suicide

 

Reviews

Booklist (May 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 17))
Grades 9-12. When Ava Dreyman was killed in an East Berlin prison, all she left behind was a diary. Decades later, that diary might hold the truth about Molly Mavity’s mother’s disappearance, but she’ll need the help of Kuwaiti American Pepper Al Yusef to unlock its secrets, and they’ll have to travel all the way to Berlin and back to do it. Oakes’ sophomore novel unfolds in a series of soul-bearing letters (from Molly to Pepper) and lighthearted essays (Pepper’s last-chance assignment to graduate high school), all interspersed with passages from Ava’s compelling diary. Though the middle drags a bit, and the ultimate reveal might be predictable to some readers, Oakes has some brilliant moments—Ava’s mother, a resistance fighter who burns East German buildings, gives fiery speeches about anger, destruction, and power. Molly and Pepper’s lively friendship unfolds with spirited warmth, and intricate connections between their families tantalizingly come to the surface. Packed with dynamic characters, thoughtful writing, and a decades-spanning mystery, this will appeal to readers looking for something off the beaten path.

Kirkus Reviews (May 15, 2017)
Fire forges historical and contemporary connections among three troubled teens. The three teen narrators could easily star in their own books. Instead, their voices and lives intertwine in an implausible plot full of coincidences and conveniently chatty villains. Rebellious white redhead Molly Mavity writes sarcastic, tense-shifting letters to her friend Pepper, who lies in a coma. Molly, whose arsonist father will soon be executed, is convinced her mother is alive—despite her suicide. Ibrahim “Pepper” Al-Yusef, a Kuwaiti immigrant with epilepsy and a comic-relief seizure pug, wryly weaves his views on everything from friendship to racism into a series of essays assigned by a long-suffering teacher as a condition of graduation. Both gradually reveal how they followed a stranger’s clues to Berlin in search of Ava Dreyman, a teen from the former East Germany who became an Anne Frank–esque symbol for the fall of the Berlin Wall. Ava, whose diary of resisting the Stasi, escaping to America, and finding romance ends with her murder in 1989, connects Molly and Pepper in a far-flung way. Though Ava’s accounts of oppression are chilling, Pepper’s awkwardness is endearing, and Molly’s grief is brutal, the mastermind’s far-fetched scheme and Molly and Pepper’s improbable stunts in Berlin ultimately muffle the strong voices of all three characters. A convoluted mystery that flavors the darkness of Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity (2012) with the contrivances of Scooby Doo. (Mystery. 14-18)

About the Author

Stephanie Oakes lives in Spokane, Washington, and works as a library media teacher at a combined elementary and middle school. She has an MFA in poetry from Eastern Washington University. Her first book, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, was a Morris Award finalist and a Golden Kite Honor book.

Her website is www.stephanieoakesbooks.com

Around the Web

The Arsonist on Amazon

The Arsonist on Goodreads

The Arsonist on JLG

The Arsonist Publisher Page

She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper

She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper. June 6, 2017. Ecco, 272 p. ISBN: 9780062394408.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 610.

A propulsive, gritty novel about a girl marked for death who must fight and steal to stay alive, learning from the most frightening man she knows—her father.

Eleven-year-old Polly McClusky is shy, too old for the teddy bear she carries with her everywhere, when she is unexpectedly reunited with her father, Nate, fresh out of jail and driving a stolen car. He takes her from the front of her school into a world of robbery, violence, and the constant threat of death. And he does it to save her life.

Nate made dangerous enemies in prison—a gang called Aryan Steel has put out a bounty on his head, counting on its members on the outside to finish him off. They’ve already murdered his ex-wife, Polly’s mother. And Polly is their next target.

Nate and Polly’s lives soon become a series of narrow misses, of evading the bad guys and the police, of sleepless nights in motels. Out on the lam, Polly is forced to grow up early: with barely any time to mourn her mother, she must learn how to take a punch and pull off a drug-house heist. She finds herself transforming from a shy little girl into a true fighter. Nate, in turn, learns what it’s like to love fiercely and unconditionally—a love he’s never quite felt before. But can their powerful bond transcend the dangerous existence he’s carved out for them? Will they ever be able to live an honest life, free of fear?

She Rides Shotgun is a gripping and emotionally wrenching novel that upends even our most long-held expectations about heroes, villains, and victims. Nate takes Polly to save her life, but in the end it may very well be Polly who saves him.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Strong language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Drugs, Alcohol, Criminal culture, Murder, Death of a parent

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 15))
When short-timer Nate McClusky kills a member of the Aryan Steel prison gang in Susanville, California, the victim’s brother (who happens to be the gang’s president) sends a death warrant from Supermax—not only for Nate but also for his ex-wife, Avis, and his daughter, Polly. Nate survives his last week in prison but returns home to find Avis dead. Picking up 11-year-old Polly from middle school, he intends to drop her off with a relative until circumstances suggest the only way to keep her permanently safe is to take on Aryan Steel and hit them where it hurts. Polly is at first terrified (and contacts the police) but soon displays an aptitude for crime—she’s her father’s daughter, after all—and decides she wants to be more than just a passenger. Meanwhile, in chapters that read like mid-period James Ellroy, Detective Park searches the bleak and barren parts of California for the girl who now regrets her call for help. From its bravura prologue to its immensely satisfying ending, this first novel (Harper previously penned the short story collection Love and Other Wounds, 2015) comes out with guns blazing and shoots the chambers dry. It’s both a dark, original take on the chase novel and a strangely touching portrait of a father-daughter relationship framed in barbed wire.

Kirkus Reviews starred (April 1, 2017)
In his first novel, Harper returns to the seamy criminal fringe he explored in his story collections (Love and Other Wounds, 2015, etc.) for a grim yet moving tale about an ex-con’s efforts to protect his young daughter.Meek, intellectually precocious 11-year-old Polly finds her tattooed, heavily muscled father, Nate, waiting outside her school in Fontana, California. Having been in prison for more than half of Polly’s life, Nate has now been granted an early release. Unfortunately, though, the head of the Aryan Steel gang has just put out a call from his prison cell for his gang members to kill Nate, his ex-wife, and their daughter. Polly’s mother is knifed before Nate can reach her, but he takes Polly on the run to evade hit men while planning how to stop the vendetta. His love for Polly overpowers and empowers him, but there is no sentimentality here—he recognizes with paternal pride that she shares his “buried rage.” He trains her to fight, then takes her along when he robs stores and attacks his Aryan Steel enemies. Although she remains attached to her teddy bear, Polly discovers she takes after her badass daddy more than she or he imagined. The novel combines striking images, like Nate’s “gunfighter eyes” and the “old man of a car” he shows up driving, with disturbingly raw violence—a drug mule gutted by a crooked sheriff to get out the merchandise, the same sheriff gouging out an eye. Even more disturbing are the characters’ raw emotions: after witnessing Nate hold an Aryan Steel member’s back against the coals from a barbecue-grill fire until he gives desired information, Polly finds herself smiling. Yet there is a moral core here. Acknowledging that his vengeful behavior is “dumb and selfish,” Nate knows he isn’t good for Polly. And despite her developing toughness, Polly retains her urge to save the innocent. For all the darkness and even ugliness displayed, the characters’ loyalty, love, and struggle for redemption grip the reader and don’t let go.

About the Author

Jordan Harper was born and educated in Missouri. He’s worked as an ad man, a rock critic and a teevee writer. He currently lives in Los Angeles.

His website is www.jordanharper.com

Around the Web

She Rides Shotgun on Amazon

She Rides Shotgun on Goodreads

She Rides Shotgun on JLG

She Rides Shotgun Publisher Page

In Some Other Life by Jessica Brody

In Some Other Life by Jessica Brody. August 8, 2017. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 464 p. ISBN: 9780374380762.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 640.

A fresh and funny novel about how one different choice could change everything.

Three years ago, Kennedy Rhodes secretly made the most important decision of her life. She declined her acceptance to the prestigious Windsor Academy to attend the local public school with her longtime crush, who had finally asked her out. It seems it was the right choice―she and Austin are still together, and Kennedy is now the editor in chief of the school’s award-winning newspaper. But then Kennedy’s world is shattered one evening when she walks in on Austin kissing her best friend, and she wonders if maybe her life would have been better if she’d made the other choice. As fate would have it, she’s about to find out . . .

The very next day, Kennedy falls and hits her head and mysteriously awakes as a student at the Windsor Academy. And not just any student: Kennedy is at the top of her class, she’s popular, she has the coolest best friend around, and she’s practically a shoo-in for Columbia University. But as she navigates her new world, she starts to wonder whether this alternate version of herself really is as happy as everyone seems to believe. Is it possible this Kennedy is harboring secrets and regrets of her own? A fresh and funny story about how one different choice could change everything, Jessica Brody’s In Some Other Life will keep readers guessing, and find them cheering for Kennedy until the final page.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 7-10. Right before her freshman year, Kennedy Rhodes made a life-changing decision: she declined acceptance to the prestigious Windsor Academy to attend the local public school with her longtime crush and new boyfriend. Three years later, the decision seems to have been the right one—at least until a series of events makes her wonder what life would have been like if she had chosen differently. Luckily, she gets to find out when she mysteriously wakes up as a Windsor student the following day in a life that she’s only dreamed of having. Kennedy quickly learns how that life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, either. Brody crafts a lighthearted story very much in the vein of her A Week of Mondays (2016), examining the impact our choices can have on our lives, and showing that even the things that we most desire can come with unknown sacrifices. Though the plot itself can be slightly predictable at times, Brody’s novel captures the essence of high school through her well-developed characters. A whimsical exploration of the theory of the multiverse.

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2017)
Three years ago, Kennedy Rhodes passed up her dream—a spot at a prestigious high school—for a boy she hardly knew. Now 18 and a senior at an underfunded public school, Kennedy is still with Austin, serves as editor-in-chief of the award-winning school paper, and dreams of studying journalism at Columbia—but she still wonders “What if?” Following a few humiliating incidents, Kennedy goes to Windsor Academy to beg for the spot she gave up. Angered by the dean’s predictable rejection, Kennedy storms out, falls, and is knocked unconscious. She wakes in a reality in which she had accepted that space at Windsor: she’s now at the top of her class and will no doubt get into Columbia. As she navigates this privileged new life and puzzles out the differences between herself and the seemingly perfect Other Me, Kennedy discovers the latter harbors a troubling secret. Kennedy needs to right Other Me’s wrongs, but at what cost? Aside from some non-European surnames such as Wu and Patel, race is ambiguous, implying that Kennedy and Austin are both white. Many readers may find it difficult to drum up sympathy for a girl who gave up her dream for a boy, but the temptation to second-guess decisions is an instantly recognizable one, and Brody’s execution of Kennedy’s process is a thoughtful one. Readers will find themselves wondering “What if?” right along with Kennedy. (Fiction. 13-18)

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About the Author

Jessica Brody knew from a young age that she wanted to be a writer. She started self “publishing” her own books when she was seven years old, binding the pages together with cardboard, wallpaper samples, and electrical tape.

After graduating from Smith College in 2001 where she double majored in Economics and French and minored in Japanese, Jessica later went on to work for MGM Studios as a Manager of Acquisitions and Business Development. In May of 2005, Jessica quit her job to follow her dream of becoming a published author.

Her website is www.JessicaBrody.com

Around the Web

In Some Other Life on Amazon

In Some Other Life  on Goodreads

In Some Other Life  on JLG

In Some Other Life Publisher Page

The World’s Greatest Detective by Caroline Carlson

The World’s Greatest Detective by Caroline Carlson. May 16, 2017. HarperCollins, 368 p. ISBN: 9780062368270.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.3; Lexile: 840.

Caroline Carlson, author of the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series, returns with The World’s Greatest Detective, a story of crime, tricks, and hilarity for those who know that sometimes it takes a pair of junior sleuths to solve a slippery case.

Detectives’ Row is full of talented investigators, but Toby Montrose isn’t one of them. He’s only an assistant at his uncle’s detective agency, and he’s not sure he’s even very good at that. Toby’s friend Ivy is the best sleuth around—or at least she thinks so. They both see their chance to prove themselves when the famed Hugh Abernathy announces a contest to choose the World’s Greatest Detective. But when what was supposed to be a game turns into a real-life murder mystery, can Toby and Ivy crack the case?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Theft, Murder

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 17))
Grades 4-7. Since his parents disappeared while on a trip to the sea, Toby Montrose has been passed around to every one of his relatives, and now he’s on his last one, so he has to be on his best behavior or he fears he will be doomed to the orphanage. Luckily for Toby, this last relative is Uncle Gabriel, owner of Montrose Investigations, who lives on the notorious Detectives’ Row, right down the street from a famous detective Toby idolizes: Hugh Abernathy, who has a line of customers waiting every morning, and whom Uncle Gabriel can’t stand. When Hugh Abernathy invites Uncle Gabriel to a competition to determine who’s the world’s greatest detective, he refuses. And when Toby decides to go in his place, the contest transforms into a real mystery when someone turns up dead. As Toby and his new friend Ivy and her dog, Percival, begin to question suspects, they uncover secrets about the detectives, including a long-buried history between Uncle Gabriel and Hugh Abernathy. Toby is an instantly endearing lead, and the fictional world of Colebridge, with its sleuthing population, crimes, and Detectives’ Row, is sure to captivate readers. The witty dialogue, clever characters, and twists and turns are sure to keep young sleuths riveted. A dream come true for young mystery fans.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2017)
With his parents missing and presumed dead, eleven-year-old Toby is sent to live with his uncle, a down-on-his-luck private investigator. When Uncle Gabriel’s nemesis, successful celebrity detective Hugh Abernathy, sponsors a contest offering a $10,000 prize and bragging rights as the next “world’s greatest detective,” Toby enters, without his uncle’s knowledge. But when Toby arrives at the manor where the contest’s “murder” is to take place, his hosts’ abrasive daughter Ivy–a would-be detective herself–discovers Toby’s deception and inveigles him into teaming up with her to solve the mystery. Even worse, the pretend murder turns into a real murder, and all the detectives gathered for the competition are now suspects! Clues drop where and when they will be most useful, and the mystery structure is solidly built, with multiple red herrings and surprising reversals that will leave readers guessing up until the climax. Toby’s often-luckless character keeps sympathies firmly on his side, whereas Ivy’s social rough edges humanize her interactions with Toby, even as she remains unapologetically smart and ambitious. With a wink and a tip of the hat, Carlson uses cozy-mystery tropes–motive, means, opportunity; gossipy spinsters with underappreciated sleuthing skills–to create a warm, humorous jaunt that could infect readers with a lifelong love of the genre. anita l. burkam

About the Author

Caroline Carlson holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is an assistant editor of Children’s and Young Adult Literature at the literary journal Hunger Mountain. Before writing her first book, she worked as a textbook editor and helped to organize the children’s summer reading program at her hometown library.

Caroline grew up in Massachusetts and now lives with her husband in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Her website is www.carolinecarlsonbooks.com

Around the Web

The World’s Greatest Detective on Amazon

The World’s Greatest Detective on Goodreads

The World’s Greatest Detective on JLG

The World’s Greatest Detective Publisher Page